The 8 Best New York City Dishes of 2023
It’s almost impossible to find a restaurant that does everything right. Even tracking down one great dish on the menu takes dedication and some lucky breaks. But the joy of getting to know these places is enormous, especially when you find yourself close to one of the places.
What follows is a list of things I ate this year that I would go back and eat again any day of the week. They’re in no particular order, but there is one organizing principle: These dishes are all prepared in places that aren’t on our list of The 12 Favorite Restaurants in New York City for 2023. You’ve probably heard of most of these establishments already, but do you know which stall is inside Urban Hawker Market? Makes a great oyster omelet, or where can you get noodle soup inspired by freshwater oyster cooking in northern Vietnam? Good, you’ve done it now.
Carbonara is basically pasta made with bacon and eggs, but if you do it wrong, you’ll get an unholy mess. The New York branch of Roscioli, a constantly packed Roman restaurant, does it right. Better than right, actually. Cheese, fat, and egg yolk come together in a miraculously smooth sauce. The black pepper rain unleashes all kinds of chaos that is almost miraculous. The pasta is so firm that most American restaurants put it back in the pot for another minute, but it’s actually perfect as is.
43 MacDougall Street (King Street), Soho; there is no phone; rosciolinyc.com.
Black and white seven-layer cake at Gertrude’s
Many liberties have been taken since Hungarian Jews carried the Dobos tart recipe across the Atlantic. Gertrude’s huge version, almost as dense and moist as a pudding cake, alternates between chocolate layers and yellow layers like piano keys. I counted and counted and found no more than six layers in this seven-layer cake. On the other hand, there are two types of frosting, mocha buttercream and dark chocolate ganache. Let’s call it even.
605 Carlton Street (St. Marks Street), Prospect Heights, Brooklyn; 718-269-0043; gertrudes.nyc.
Eggs are scrambled with sweet round clams and a few spoonfuls of the mixture which is cooked into crispy pieces. That’s it, except for the spicy red sambal which you serve as desired. Suitable for breakfast, lunch, dinner, cocktail hour, coffee break and probably hundreds of other occasions.
Inside Urban Hawker Market, 135 West 50th Street (7th Avenue), downtown; there is no phone; urbanhawker.com.
The long, square-shaped noodles are rolled, roughly into the shape of linguine, and cut behind the counter every day, which may explain why they do a good job of getting the dipping sauce, which is chicken dashi that is reduced until it’s thick, like gravy. The union of pasta and sauce is close to perfect. When something seems too familiar, squeezing a piece of lime can reignite your interest.
117 Orchard Street (Delansey Street), Lower East Side; there is no phone; okiboru.com.
The process by which shrimp and taro are cooked inside the intact skin of a whole chicken takes days to complete and almost as much time to demonstrate. Bouncy and juicy inside its golden crust, it disappears in minutes.
11 Division Street (Bowery), Chinatown; 212-941-6888; hakkacuisine.nyc.
Pork slices and white rice in a clear golden pork broth, Okdongsik’s dooji gomtang is the kind of soup you can eat every day. But this is especially welcome on those days when you receive some news that you were hoping wouldn’t come.
13 East 30th Street (Madison Street), downtown; 929-237-8164; handhospitality.com.
Mom’s hen cake
This was a passing special that Mam’s loyal followers might have enjoyed on a recent weekend last spring, or again in the fall: a Northern Vietnamese soup made with rice vermicelli and freshwater clams. These shellfish in particular are rare in New York City, so Mam recreates the soup here with local mussels and loads of fresh chopped herbs.
70 Forsyth Street, (Hester Street), Lower East Side; there is no phone; instagram.com/mam.ny.
Caribbean pancakes at Winner’s
You can tell by the neat rows of fork tines imprinted into the buttery crust that Sherwin Burroughs carefully hand-bakes his delicious pies. Sold under the name Pop’s Patties at various Winner’s locations—Winner on Franklin, Winner Butcher, Winner in the Park, Winner’s Bakery, and Runner’s Up, all in Brooklyn—they are Caribbean patties made with a firm taste and a delicate touch. The most interesting may be the one filled with salty fish and sweet bananas, but the short rib and oxtail are very good too, and there’s great flavor in the curried vegetables folded into a vegan buttery crust.
Winner’s at Franklin, 747 Franklin Street (Sterling Place), Crown Heights, Brooklyn; there is no phone; winr.nyc.
Winner Butcher, 192 Fifth Avenue (Sackett Street), Park Slope, Brooklyn.
Winner in the Park, Picnic House, 40 West Drive (5th Street), Prospect Park, Brooklyn.
Winner’s and Runner’s Up Bakery, 367 Seventh Avenue (11th Street), Park Slope, Brooklyn.